First published in London by editor John Dunton on March 17, 1691, The Athenian Mercury, ended with the following announcement:
All Persons whatever may be resolved gratis in any Question that their own satisfaction or curiosity shall prompt ’em to, if they send their Questions by a Penny Post letter to Mr. Smith at his Coffee-house in Stocks Market in the Poultry, where orders are given for the reception of such Letters, and care shall be taken for their Resolution by the next Weekly Paper after their sending
The publication was something wholly new to the English-reading public, whose own questions made up the content of the biweekly paper.
The public response was overwhelming, prompting Dunton to seek help from his mathematician friend Richard Sault, and eventually the allegedly well-read Dr. Norris as well as Reverend Samuel Wesley. Together this group formed the Athenian Society, know-it-alls who gathered over coffee to wrestle with the deepest concerns of their anonymous readers.
Questions were often of a scientific nature, like What becomes of smoke? (it dissipates), What do you think of the Milky Way in the Heavens? (it’s made up of a bunch of stars and it’s pretty neato), or Whether when a horse neighs, it is rejoicing or because he is angry? (He’s just sayin’ “hey!”, or possibly “hay!”).
Some were more philosophical, such as, What is death? (no longer alive, more or less), Why do men dream of things they never thought of? (minus Divine influence, they don’t), or Whether truth is always to be spoken (yes, of course, unless it shouldn’t, but definitely mostly yes).
Still others had to do with issues of the heart, including such gems as, A lady who is extremely troubled by corns desires to know the reason? (probably Divine punishment for breaking some poor fella’s heart) and Where is the likeliest place to get a husband in? (an advertisement in this paper would be a good place to start, but besides that, anywhere there are likely to be more men than women).
Often given credit for being the first advice column, the forerunner of Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers, The Athenian Mercury ran for seven years, dispensing wisdom and advice, and even spawning a brief spin-off called The Ladies’ Mercury devoted only to questions pertaining to the concerns of the fairer sex.
Of course today print media has an uncertain future and its parts, including the traditional advice column, are falling by the wayside, but if you are in need of advice, there is certainly no shortage of it on the Internet. Upstart fake media outlets, weirdly specific discussion forums, and smarty-pants bloggers abound, ready to solve your biggest, most intimate problems.
And why not? They are probably just as qualified four dudes hanging out in a coffee shop, debating life’s greatest questions, like, Whether birds have any government? The answer, obviously, is yup.
Recently, I was asked to share some advice for newcomers to the blogosphere as part of the Blogger Recognition Award. The rules of accepting the award are as follows:
- Write a post to display your award.
- Give a brief story of how your blog started.
- Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
- Thank the person that nominated you and link to his or her blog.
- Pass the award on to 15 more smarty-pants bloggers.
So, here it goes. I started blogging because, appropriately enough, I took the advice of a friend who said I should. If I’m qualified to give advice (and again, using the measuring stick of four dudes in a coffee shop, I might be), then it would be:
- Blog consistently (as much as possible) according to a realistic schedule that you can maintain in the context of your life.
- Find a consistent niche that offers you lots of material that you’re good at writing about.
- Okay, this one is just a bonus, because I like you all so much. Don’t blog overtly about politics. Unless of course that’s just your thing, but if that’s the case, I don’t envy you.
And now for the best part. In answer to the question, What is worse than ingratitude? the Athenian Society was uncharacteristically quiet (literally answering “__ __ __ __ __”). I agree with them on this one and I am very grateful to Jasmine of How Useful It Is for passing this award on to me, along with the advice (and I’m paraphrasing here): If you get a blog award, pass it on already! Sorry it took me so long.
And now for the other best part. I’d like to pass the Blogger Recognition Award on to the following folks:
Okay, so that’s sixteen, but they are all well worth checking out. You can trust me. I’m a smarty-pants blogger.